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Capturing Video from a DVD Camcorder onto a Computer

You were lucky enough to have a camcorder to record video footage of Junior’s first steps, first trip to the zoo and even his first chocolate cupcake. Now it’s time to share it with the world! But how? If your camcorder records to MiniDV tapes, connecting to a computer via Firewire and capturing the footage with a program such as Windows Movie Maker, Pinnacle Studio or Adobe Premiere is fairly straightforward. But what if you have a camcorder that records direct to DVD?

Format, Format, Format
DVD camcorders are nice in some respects: they are convenient all-in-one recording, editing and burning devices that can produce DVDs without the need to transfer video to a computer for editing. You can immediately play the DVD video back either using a standard DVD player or the camcorder itself. One downside, however, is that the recording format – usually MPEG2 or MPEG4– is not readily supported by many video editing programs, meaning you cannot simply copy the footage onto your hard drive and utilize the free editing software that came with your computer. Copying the DVD video onto your hard drive may be possible, of course, if your camcorder came with its own software that allows you to do so. But what if your camera didn’t come with specialized software? Does that mean little Chloe’s surprising and sometimes messy milestones will remain on the original DVD forever?

No, thank goodness.

If you want to fine-tune any of the footage or even just upload a video to your Totsite, you will need to convert it to a workable format first.

There is a lot of free software (“freeware”) that can help you convert your DVD video so that your computer can recognize and play back the file, which is exactly what must happen in order to upload videos to the web or do any editing that you cannot do on the camcorder itself. You can also purchase software if you aren’t comfortable with the idea of downloading freeware via the Internet.

For the purpose of this tutorial, I will use a freeware program called DVDx (http://www.labdv.com/dvdx/). This makes it easy to convert the DVD files into AVI or WMV, both of which recognized by video editing programs and ready to upload to your Totsite. If you’re feeling more adventurous, I recommend visiting http://www.videohelp.com/ for many more suggestions on this type of software, and lots of great hints and tips on various aspects of video editing and creation.

Help! How do I download and install this program?

  1. Go to http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=72208.
  2. Click on the download button corresponding to the latest release of DVDx.
  3. On the next page, click on DVDx_2_9_setup.zip.
  4. This should automatically begin downloading the program, unless your computer has prevented the automatic download. If this is the case, look for a bar at the top of the screen that tells you this, click it, and tell it to Download File.
  5. Save the file (DVDx_2_9_setup.zip) on your desktop.
  6. Unzip the file by double clicking on the folder you have just downloaded.
  7. Double-click on DVDx_2_9_setup.exe.
  8. Click Run.
  9. The program will now install as any other computer program. There should also be an icon on the desktop named DVDx, which will start the program when double-clicked.

Okay, the software is installed. Now what?

  1. Make sure the DVD with the video footage you want to edit is in your computer’s DVD drive. Stop the DVD if it automatically starts playing – we just need to pull the files from the disc, not actually play it.
  2. Create a new folder (right-click on the desktop, select New -> Folder) on your desktop where the edited video will go. For this, we’ll call the folder Video Edit.
  3. Open DVDx by double-clicking the icon on the desktop that was created during installation (or by going to Start -> All -> Programs -> DVDx -> DVDx).
  4. Click File -> Open DVD Root.
  5. Choose the drive your DVD is in.
  6. Click on the folder named VIDEO_TS and click OK.
  7. Depending on the number of videos on your DVD, choose the one you want to upload and click Select.
  8. A menu showing the input settings for your video now appears. You can change any of these settings, though the key is to make sure that the Output Frame Rate corresponds to what your country uses (NTSC or PAL).
  9. Once you are finished, click OK.
  10. You can now preview your DVD on the main screen if you’d like (this is good to make sure you’ve selected the appropriate track in step #5).
  11. Next, click Settings -> Output Settings.
  12. In the upper left-hand drop down box, choose an output setting (AVI or WMV will work well for this). I chose the following settings:

    AVI (DivX, YUV,…)
    Use Lame
                Lame MP3 3.97
                192 Kb/s 44.1 KHz 16Bits Q3
                Intel Indeo Video 4.5 (You have several different choices of
                codecs here specific to your computer – experiment to see which you             like best).
    Export Settings
                Resolution: 512 x 384
                Zoom: Full (16:9 or 4:3 input)
                Resize: Bilinear SSE/3Dnow+

    The rest of the settings can be left alone. Click Apply.

  13. One last thing before you can convert the video: click File -> Select Output File.
  14. Click Browse and navigate to the folder you created on your desktop (called Video Edit above).
  15. In the field (where *.* should be when you open this window), type in the name of what you want to call your converted video. In this case, I will call it Birthday.
  16. Click Save, and then OK. At the very bottom of the main window, the path you just chose in step #12 should appear. If this doesn’t look right, do steps 11 through 14 again.
  17. With DVDx, you can choose to convert an entire video, jump to certain chapters, start at any other point in the timeline and stop. This is great when you know exactly what part of the video you’d like to work with. On the main screen’s timeline, there is a slider that you can move to select a starting point. Just make sure that the slider is at the beginning of the timeline if you want to encode the whole thing!
  18. After all of this, you’re ready to convert your video! Just below the preview screen on the main window, click the Encode button. You can let this encode the entire video or a shorter segment. You can stop the encoding at any time by clicking the Stop button (where the Encode button was a moment before).
  19. Navigate to the folder that you selected in step #12. Your AVI file is there and ready to be imported into your favorite editing program!

After converting your DVD video into a workable format, you can now follow the Totsites tutorial for working with video in Windows Movie Maker.


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